Implications: failing NICS check after buying firearms online

Posted by Dustin Howard on Jul 9th 2022

Implications: failing NICS check after buying firearms online

First off, avoid everything in this article and get and keep your concealed weapons permit, even in a Second Amendment friendly state like Arizona. This gives you the reassurance of knowing you will have zero problems with a 4473 firearms application because you’ve already passed a comprehensive background check with Arizona DPS and you can use the CCW in place of the NICS CHECK. Read to bottom to know why this is important.

Terms we will use in this article:

  • Consumer, the buyer that made the online purchase, should be the same person filling out the 4473 paperwork upon pickup of firearm
  • Online FFL Seller, a web based firearm purchase site, like classic firearms, GunBroker, cheaper than dirt, Buds, Palmetto, etc
  • Transfer FFL, the local FFL that will process your 4473 application and paperwork
  • 4473, the Firearms Transaction Record, the form/application that precedes a NICS background check
  • NICS, National Instant Criminal Background Check System, what the federal government and many states use to verify the Consumer does not have a criminal record or isn't otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm

Despite what the media tells you, all firearms purchased by a Consumer from an Online FFL Seller must still be shipped a Transfer FFL in your area to process the 4473 application and NICS background check. You must do this onsite at the Transfer FFL’s location.

In this scenario, the firearm is bought, paid for, shipped, and the Online FFL Seller is DONE, and the firearm has been received by the Transfer FFL. However, it is still not yet the property of the Consumer until all federally required paperwork is complete. This is different than pretty much any other product; even though the Consumer paid for it, it’s not “theirs” until an approved background has been completed and approved.

If, for whatever reason, the Consumer does not pass the 4473/NICS background check, this creates a pickle of a situation that Consumers should be aware of:

  • Despite having paid for the firearm, Consumer has ZERO RIGHTS to the firearm; Local FFL that wants to keep their license WILL NOT TRANSFER and is under no obligation to do anything they determine will bend or break the rules
  • Local FFL does not have to let the Consumer find an alternate buyer; this reeks of a “straw purchase”, which is a federal crime
  • Local FFL is NOT under any obligation to offer to buy firearm from the denied Consumer, even at a reduced cost
  • Local FFL, at their discretion, could offer to consign the firearm and sell on behalf of Consumer, but consumers should expect that they will not be able to recoup all of their money, and Local FFL will receive an agreed upon portion of the sale proceeds for their efforts

If the Consumer wants to attempt to return the firearm:

  • Consumer should expect that they will need to interact with the Online FFL Seller about a possible return, and this is not the Transfer FFL’s responsibility, especially without compensation
  • If Online FFL Seller will accept a return, Consumer should expect a “restocking fee” from them, understanding this has nothing to do with Transfer FFL, as they usually do not have to accept returns for a denial (read what you agree to)
  • IF the Online FFL Seller will take it back, shipping back to the Online FFL Seller is not free, the Local FFL will NOT pay for this, Consumer should expect have to pay the shipping fees to Local FFL in advance
  • Local FFL time is not free, the Online FFL Seller did not pay the Local FFL, and there will be a number of tasks required to manage this scenario that goes beyond whatever the standard FFL fee is
  • The Transfer FFL could charge storage fees for storage of the firearm while denied Consumer figures out what to do, and in some states, non-payment if these fees could result in an abandoned property claim

If the Consumer decides to fight it and figure that out:

  • Good, if the denial was not accurate, you should fight it
  • PTP will hold the firearm while the Consumer gets it worked out
  • Once resolved, PTP will not charge the Consumer storage fees, just our standard transfer fee (see our article on that)

As stated, get your CCW up front. This avoids many of these problems.

But also shop local. A good, customer service friendly FFL in your local area will help you manage this.

If you buy from PTP, we charge you for the firearm. If you are denied in NICS, we refund the firearm and we put it back in our inventory to sale to another consumer. Then we advise you on what to do, either legally (great lawyers in Arizona like Trent Woods) or your actions to follow up with the FBI to get your background check cleared up, because sometimes NICS is wrong.

We know…it’s happened to the PTP company owner. For whatever reason, still unknown to this day, we were temporarily denied on a NICS check. We fought it, followed up with FBI repeatedly, submitted our appeal and fingerprints, and were cleared, and picked up our firearm. So…IT HAPPENS, and sometimes we don’t know why.


  • Get your CCW
  • Buy local